Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Playing with Pictures

If you’re interested in vintage photos and collage, and you’re in the Toronto area, you might want to catch the exhibit Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage before it closes on September 5th. Not everyone will love this AGO show because it’s not large, flashy or painterly (things I admit usually appeal to me when I visit an art gallery). However, it’s fascinating what these Victorian artists did with pen and ink, and watercolor …incorporating photos that couldn’t be resized.
They didn’t have our cornucopia of tools and materials to work with, but given their work, you get the feeling most of them would have loved the digital. For example, the collage I did above incorporates a cabinet card, one of my own photographs and several pieces of vintage line art all altered and layered together in Photoshop. I didn’t pick up a pen or brush, and I played with colors, sizes and effects until I got what I wanted.
I’m not the only person who recognized some kindred spirits in this show. Just look at all the people who submitted digital art to the Playing with Pictures Flickr group below.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Review of Carmi's Book

I think it was Harlan Ellison who said that anyone who can make out a grocery list thinks he (or she) can write a novel. Ellison is well known in the sci fi community for his cynical bent on life, but my guess would be that most of us recognize that writing anything – even a grocery list – can be a test of our mental prowess.
Because I’ve written and illustrated a book myself, this gives me an instant bond with anyone who has gone through a similar process: like Carmi Cimicata, for instance.
Carmi has written and illustrated the Art Girl’s Guide to Paris which is chock full of her quirky charm. There are lots of great photos and suggestions on places to visit like shops, palaces and museums where you can have the complete Gallic experience. In other words, if you didn’t want to visit Paris before savoring this book, I guarantee you will afterwards.
I’m actually on my second copy now. The first I sent off with my brother Robin who was meeting my sister-in-law Wendy in Paris earlier this month. Like Carmi, Wendy makes an annual pilgrimage to the city, and her take on the book when she got back? “Oolala – it reminded me of places I’d adored but forgotten, and introduced me to new things to do and places to go. Loved it!”
Now you may think because “Art Girl” is in the title that it wouldn’t be of any interest to men. Wrong! John is Carmi fan too. “I think the book is really good,” he says. “Not only does she make me want to go back to Paris, but she inspires me to write a book too.”
For more information on an Art Girl’s Guide to Paris, visit Carmi’s book blog. To see the first few pages of the guide, check out her site on Blurb.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Work of Art

I have to admit I’m hooked on reality shows like Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance because the people competing against each other are usually skilled at what they do. So when I read about Bravo’s Work of Art on Lennie’s blog, I knew I had to start watching it. After all: how could I resist a show about artists?
But it’s harder to make judgments about art. Somehow knowing what constitutes a good meal, a great dress or a fine singing voice seems much easier. What does make a work of art though? You could list all sorts of requirements like harmony, rhythm, balance, use of color, development of ideas, and so on, but in the end, it’s usually how you spontaneously react to a piece that convinces you whether or not it’s art—for you.
China Chow, the host of the show, says it best: “Art is one of the most authentic ways for a person to express themselves. Clothing has to be functional, food has to taste good – but art is the purest form of expression, existing without set boundaries.”
That lack of boundaries is what makes Work of Art so interesting. At first I was baffled by how the artists on the show struggle with the process of implimenting their creative ideas. Then I realized that what I was watching was normal. Most artists find art-making a challenge at times, and focus is often a problem. The advantage to being on this show is that you are pushed to produce art in a short period of time, so you can’t help but benefit from the creative stretch even if the work you produce isn’t that good. And a lot of it isn’t. As a viewer, I personally don’t think this matters because it’s fascinating to watch how artists really work.
On the other hand, a couple of the judges seem to have their own boundaries (read “prejudices”) firmly in place. Listening to them critique the artists makes me uncomfortable. They have a tendency to promote the slick, the sophisticated and the manipulative. In other words, if you’re cool, anything you do is basically cool. But if you happen to be odd in an unfunky way, well, you might as well just forget it.
To me, this cult of personality has created an emptiness at the heart of the mainstream fine art world, and I’m just happy we have blogs and the Internet to expose us to all sorts of amazing and inspiring artists—artists we would be denied acess to if those pretentious, professional windbags had their way. (Moral to this story? Go forth and create anyway!)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Who do you write like?

After having a chunk of his writing analyzed at a site called I Write Like, John informed me that his style resembles Kurt Vonnegut’s. Not too shabby I’d say. Then he mentioned that my brother Robin’s writing style alternates between Edgar Allen Poe and the sci fi writer William Gibson. I was almost afraid to ask who I write like. But he told me that Stephen King kept popping up when he entered some of my blog posts. I once stayed up all night reading The Shining, so I was quite pleased about being compared to SK.
What about my book though? Apparently here my style resembles David Foster Wallace, a writer I’d never heard of. But I wikipedia-ed him and plan to read some of his work. All I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t know my style resembled Wallace’s while I was writing Creating from the Inside Out. It probably would have intimidated me.
Now when it comes to my fiction, two names came up: Stephen King again—and James Joyce. I think that’s absolutely hilarious; my split writing personality might just be the reason why I’ve never managed to have a novel published.
If you want to find out which famous writer you write like, get some of your writing together (a few paragraphs at least) and visit this site.

P.S. Just analyzed this blog post and got H.P. Lovecraft. Hmmm. I may have to revise the split personality thing to include multiples.